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Mind responds to announcement of Work Capability Assessment reforms

Tuesday, 05 September 2023 Mind

The UK government have proposed reforms to Work Capability Assessments (WCA), which currently provide decisions on whether a person is well enough to work for the purpose of their Employment Support Allowance (ESA) or Universal Credit (UC) eligibility.

The changes to the criteria have been proposed because the government want to place fewer people in the 'limited capability for work-related activity' group and more people in the 'limited capability for work' group. In practice, this means more people will receive less financial support, and will be required to make steps towards work.

It was decided earlier this year that WCAs would be replaced by the assessments used for Personal Independence Payment (PIP). A consultation has been launched today to work out which changes can be made in the immediate term, before this replacement takes place. No changes will be made in the immediate future.

Commenting on the announcement, Vicki Nash, Associate Director of External Relations at Mind said:

“While the rising number of people with mental health problems unable to work is extremely concerning, reducing the number of people able to claim sickness benefits is not a magical solution that will make people well enough for work. With these reforms, the UK government will be taking away much-needed financial support and the breathing space provided by the benefits system when people need it most.

“We know the best way to get people with mental health problems back into work is to offer effective support in the workplace and through well-resourced mental health services, but this is not the approach being taken. A focus on returning to work will mean work coaches being pressured to deliver mental health support, without the proper training, instead of the government delivering an investment in mental health care.

“People are already forced to undertake activities they are too unwell to do, due to inaccuracies in their assessment and a lack of understanding from work coaches, with devastating impacts on their mental health. Today’s proposals could make this even worse. In particular, the changes to the exemption from conditionality for people whose safety would be at substantial risk are incredibly concerning.

“It is also untrue to say that people experiencing mental health problems that would mean they shouldn’t be working can simply work from home instead. This is presenteeism, and it stops people working at their best and can delay our recovery. People must take time off if they are unwell, regardless of where they work. Mental health needs to be treated with the same respect as physical health.

“We are currently facing the biggest cost of living crisis in a generation, with those of us in receipt of benefits and with mental health problems particularly impacted. While there would never be a good time to introduce reforms that lead to more people struggling to access the financial support they need, doing so while many in the country are already going without essentials is unthinkable.”

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